Recovery Agents

 5/2/2013                                                                                                                                               

Recovery agents

When a defendant fails to appear in court after release on financial bail, their surety—the person guaranteeing their appearance—must pay the cash bond to the court. To avoid or mitigate financial liability, the surety can attempt to arrest and return the defendant. Sureties often work with a recovery agent, a person whose profession it is to lawfully apprehend fugitive defendants. Sureties transfer arrest authority to recovery agents by signing over to them a certified copy of the bond. Recovery agents, also called bounty hunters and bail enforcement agents, and how they arrest fugitive defendants, are subject to regulations provided by state law.

Standards and Licensure

At least 22 states require licenses for professional recovery agents. California and Kansas also have provisions that regulate recovery agents, but do not require licenses. California’s law mandates recovery agents carry certificates of completion for certain training courses and Kansas outlines several requirements to act as an “agent of a surety” including not having been convicted of enumerated crimes in the last 10 years.

In addition to license requirements, state statutes also regulate the conduct of recovery agents while executing their duties. Issues addressed in these laws include disclosure of association with bail agents, regulation of their attire while performing their duties, and their ability to enter private dwellings or property to make an arrest. 

Affiliation with Bail Agents

At least 15 States, including Georgia and Indiana, address how commercial sureties work with and identify recovery agents they use to arrest fugitive defendants. In Georgia, professional bondsmen are required to register a list of all bail recovery agents who may be employed by that particular bondsman to the appropriate county’s sheriff. Under Indiana law, a bail agent can use any licensed recovery agent to arrest a defendant. When the bail agent renews their license, they must provide a list of all recovery agents they used during the previous year to the commissioner of Insurance. 

Regulation of Attire

In at least nine states, laws address how a recovery agent can represent themselves with the attire they wear. In Iowa, for example, a recovery agent can only wear a uniform within the specifications given by the commissioner of Public Safety and cannot wear a uniform or make any statement that gives the impression they are a member of law enforcement. Washington law requires recovery agents to wear a shirt or vest with the words “Bail Bond Recovery Agent,”  "Bail Enforcement,” or “Bail Enforcement Agent” during an arrest.

Procedure for Entering Dwellings

Laws in at least 10 states address if, when and how recovery agents can enter private property. Arizona law only allows bail recovery agents to go into a dwelling with the consent of people inside at the time of entry. In Missouri, state law authorizes a surety recovery agent, who has probable grounds to believe someone has absconded on their bond agreement, to enter private property in order to arrest the fugitive

Washington law provides detailed requirements for bail bond recovery agents who plan to enter a defendant’s home to arrest them. The law requires recovery agents to have a “reasonable cause to believe that the defendant is inside” the dwelling or other building, to notify local law enforcement with specific details of the defendant and premises.

While in Georgia Code, penalties are provided for bail recovery agents and who enter the wrong property and causes damage or injury to any person or property. And in Virginia, the law requires a bail enforcement agent to verbally notify those inside before they enter.

Notification to Law Enforcement

All states that address recovery agents require law enforcement to be notified when, or near when, they intend to arrest a defendant. For example, Connecticut and New York law similarly require that recovery agents, prior to attempting to arrest a person, notify a local law enforcement agency where the person is believed to be located and of the “bail enforcement agent's intentions.”

Virginia law requires that a bail enforcement agent give law enforcement at least 24 hours notice before arresting a bail fugitive. In addition, the bail enforcement agent must report the arrest to local law enforcement within 60 minutes of apprehension. 

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50 State Chart | Enforcement Agent Licensure and Regulation*


STATE &
STATUTE

LICENSING OR
REGULATORY
OVERSIGHT?


ASSOCIATION WITH BAIL AGENT


REGULATION
REGARDING ATTIRE


PROVISIONS
RE: DWELLINGS

Arizona
§ 20-340.04
X2 X    
California
Penal Code § 1299.01
Penal Code § 1299.09
Penal Code § 1299.07
  X    
      X
    X  
Connecticut
§ 29-152f
§ 29-152l
X3      
    X  
Delaware
24 Del. C. § 5502
X4      
Georgia
§ 17-6-56
§ 17-6-57
§ 17-6-58
X1 X    
      X
    X X
Indiana
§ 27-10-3-1
§ 27-10-3-14
X1      
  X    
Iowa
§ 80A.3A
§ 80A.9
X6      
    X  
Kansas
§ 22-2809a
  X    
Louisiana
§ 22:1581
§ 22:1583
X2      
Mississippi
§ 83-39-5
X1      
Missouri
§ 374.783
§ 374.788
X1      
    X X
Nevada
§ 697.173
§697.260
X1      
  X    
New Hampshire
§ 597:7-b
X5      
New Jersey
§ 45:19-30
§ 45:19-37
X      
      X
New Mexico
§ 59A-51-6
§ 59A-51-12
X1      
  X    
New York
Gen. Bus. Law § 70
 
Gen. Bus. Law § 84
X1
See also Gen. Bus. Law § 71
     
    X  
North Carolina
§ 58-71-40
 
§ 58-71-125
X1      
  X
See also
§ 58-71-65
   
South Carolina
§ 38-53-90
§ 38-53-120
X1      
  X    
South Dakota
§ 58-22-1
X1      
Tennessee
§ 40-11-318
§ 40-11-320
X2 X    
      X
Utah
§ 53-11-111
§ 53-11-121
§ 53-11-123
X6 X    
    X  
      X
Virginia
§ 9.1-186.4
 
§ 9.1-186.10
§ 9.1-186.12
X1
See also
§ 9.1-186.5
     
    X  
  X   X
Washington
§18.185.250
§18.185.300
§18.185.280
X3      
    X X
  X    
West Virginia
§ 51-10A-2
§ 51-10A-4
X5 X    
  X X X

+ No statute located for states not listed
1 Same / similar to bail bond agent licensure
2 Same regulatory authority as bail agent, lesser requirements
3 Same regulatory authority as bail agent, more requirements
4 Different regulatory authority as bail agent, lesser requirements
5 Different regulatory authority as bail agent, more requirements
6 Bail agent not licensed
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2013
Westlaw was used to conduct this research.

Court rule is not included in this chart unless a statute authorizes or is superseded by the rules and case law is not included.

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Full text of statutes can be retrieved using NCSL’s State Legislatures Internet Links database.

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